April is Contracting and Home Services month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local contracting and home services professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to it. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!
Check out the first Contracting and Home Services post on Promoting Your Contracting Business.
Life was a lot easier when all it took to get a few new customers were print ads and sending out some flyers via direct mail campaigns. However, tactics like these provide no insight into their effectiveness, and nowadays their results leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, new tools and technologies have come along that provide better access to your audience, and improved ways to keep them engaged. The average return on investment (ROI) for email marketing is 4300%, and customers are 76% more likely to read an SMS marketing message than email, proving the worth of both strategies. Best of all, these tried and true techniques are also much easier to track and measure, so you can be sure that you’re focusing on growing your business in the best and most sustainable way possible. This allows you to be more data-driven in your approach and also to know what areas you can improve in.
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- The first step is deciding on an Email Service Provider (ESP) that works best for your business. Most ESPs provide email analytics and reporting on key metrics, including delivery rate, open rate, and click-through rate. In addition to sending out automated messages, Signpost also allows you to create custom email campaigns for this purpose. Find the right service for your business based on which offers the easiest list management, email templates and editing, and on which fits your budget.
- Next, it’s time to begin building your email lists. Start by sending out an email to past clients stating that your business is starting up an email list and ask them to subscribe. You can offer a welcome offer of either a gift or a coupon for some routine maintenance or service checkup in order to entice them to join. Extend the list for this initial email to anyone who requested a quote or an estimate, got in touch, or are current customers. This will give you a good base to start with!
- Next, take some time to optimize your current website and social media profiles so that you can continue to collect emails and grow your list. Add a subscription form to your homepage, as well as any blogs or social media profiles you have established for your business, so you have all your bases covered.
- Now that you’ve updated your online assets, make sure to also translate this practice offline. Add a field to invoices or estimates for the customer to provide their email address. Any paperwork that you provide to a customer should include this prompt to stay in contact.
- Create an automated, welcome email (some ESP’s do this automatically) that requests a “double opt-in” or a confirmation that they’d like to receive emails from you. This helps to protect your future emails from being marked as spam.
- You should ask that these recipients “whitelist” your email, by adding your address to their contacts to ensure that your messages will not be archived, or filtered out of view deep in their inbox. This is your best shot of ensuring your emails are being received and read. The above welcome email is a great opportunity to add a line requesting this.
- It’s important to establish expectations with regards to the frequency of emails you’re planning on sending out. If you bombard your customers with a different email every day, when they use your services once a decade, they might end up being annoyed and unsubscribing. Transparency is always helpful in preventing this, so be upfront about how often they can expect to hear from you and what types of emails (instructional how-to’s, new products and offerings, discounts, etc.) they’ll be receiving from you.
- Now that you’ve got some of the administrative tasks out of the way, you’re ready to start email marketing! First and foremost, you should focus on quality content that keeps readers interested and engaged. This is not the time or place for a hard sell—save that for 1-1 correspondence. Share your expertise with a series of how-to tutorials for simple maintenance or quick fixes for home repairs. Keep the text short and sweet, as many people will be reading these on smartphones or other devices with smaller screens and dislike scrolling through long, text-heavy emails.
- Make your emails as visual as possible. Be sure to include at least one image (but not too many, as it can greatly affect load times), to keep your audience invested. Status photos, or before-and-after photos are perfect for this. Or, include short videos that show how subscribers can perform basic tasks to improve their own home.
- Spend some extra time crafting a really terrific subject line. 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone, which puts the pressure on you to distill your entire email’s contents to an intriguing few short words.
- If your home services business tends to have many quick visits or short-term projects (such as HVAC repair, plumbing, etc.), request an email address when your customers are making their appointment and send them a brief profile on the technician that is coming to service them. This helps foster a sense of community, and let’s them know who to expect. It also reduces the uncertainty associated with letting strangers into their home. And, if you include a few lines about the technician’s background and interests, it provides good topics for small talk.
- In every email, make sure to clearly display your business’s contact info, including address, phone number, best email contact (may be different from the account you send out marketing emails from), as well as the hours of your office or headquarters if you have one. This way, when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision, not only will your business be top of their mind, they’ll also be able to easily connect with you.
- Include social buttons so that they can easily find and follow any network that your business has a profile on. This gives you even more options for how to engage with your customers in the future. If you’re including good content, you might also want to consider adding social sharing buttons directly in the email. Not only does it allow readers to easily share your content and brand expertise with their networks on social media, but can also lead to an uptick in click-through rate (CTR) by as much as 115%.
- Incentivize readers to stay engaged by offering exclusive discounts to your email subscribers.
- Add a call-to-action (CTA) button to emails with an exclusive offer. Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%. Whether it’s a discount with a link to “Request My Free Quote”, “Make an Appointment”, or “Schedule Maintenance”, include a focused CTA button, when applicable, to drive customers towards your website.
- Remember to ask for referrals. You should always include a line about your referral program (if you have one), and otherwise asking subscribers if they’d like to recommend your business to a friend. It’s important to plant the seeds early and often so that when the subject comes up, subscribers will be reminded to recommend your business.
- Schedule emails ahead of time, so you can plan in advance and not sacrifice the consistency that your audience comes to expect. Most ESP’s allow you to do this, which provides really great flexibility around your schedule. If you have a few spare moments in the morning or evening, draft out next week’s email blast and schedule it so you don’t fall behind. Or, you can utilize marketing technologies, like Signpost, that automatically send out emails to drive reviews, repeat business and referrals at the right time, without the need to lift a finger.
- Devote time to evaluating your results, and finding areas to improve upon. Marketing is a process that’s never really finished. There are always new insights that can be analyzed from different types of campaigns, and refined for future efforts. Try to learn something new from each campaign or email you send out and you’ll be on your way to becoming a successful, well-oiled email marketing machine!
Although a similar approach, do be mindful of the nuances that set SMS marketing apart from email.
- Similarly, with SMS, or text message marketing, it’s important to find a service provider. Again, Signpost allows you to establish an easy opt-in short code, track subscriptions, send out blasts (including automated ones) and track results.
- Make sure you have permission. There are strict laws against sending messages to customers who did not choose to subscribe to your marketing list.
- Build your lists by placing the opt-in short code (or ‘Text “Start’ to this number” prompts) on in all print items including business cards, flyers, in-store signage, coupons, and trucks or vans.
- Add the short code to your online assets, including your business website, social pages, blog, directories, and email signature.
- Be mindful of character limits (usually 140), and be sure to keep your message brief and to the point. No one likes to read more than they have to in a text.
- Text messages are received and read almost instantaneously. Take advantage of this by sending messages that convey urgency or are time sensitive. Incentivize the first 5 to respond. Whether a discount off their next maintenance, or a free tune up, this approach helps foster engagement while also proving the worth of subscribing to your SMS list.
- Ask a trivia question about something in your field or something seasonal, or do a “pop quiz” based on an instructional how-to blog you wrote, or video you made. Reward those who answer correctly first, similarly to #4.
- Send out a reminder the day before or morning of a scheduled appointment. This helps prompt them to do any prep you need completed before your arrival, and can convey any info you’d like to remind them of (what time, how long it will take, etc.).
- Send text tips, based on different seasonal or weather-influenced conditions. Try “It’s going to be a sweltering week! Be sure to check the freon levels in your AC! Schedule your annual maintenance today!” Or, “Time for Spring cleaning! Clean out those gutters, or we’ll do it for you with $25 off!”
- While you can’t include images, you can link to a video, social pages or your website. Better yet, using a tracking link like bit.ly, which will not only save you some characters but will also allow you to also track how many people click the link.
- Issue a “Thank you” or follow up messages after a visit or project. Keep the line of communication open, and request feedback to gauge their satisfaction levels, identify areas for improvement and prompt them to review you online.